Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles

Anatomy of a Miracle

Jonathan Miles

Written as a closely observed journalistic rendering, filtered through a wide lens that encompasses the vibrant characters affected by Cameron's story, Anatomy of a Miracle is a remarkable story of the spectacular perils of grace.

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“A remarkable combination of medical mystery, satire and war story. Like Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, it captures the long-lasting effects of war by focusing on those for whom war is only a tangential thing somewhere far away.” Shelf Awareness

"Miles's powerful prose nudges readers to seek the soft spots between faith and judgement, story and science, and fact and fiction." — CJ Lotz, Garden & Gun

A profound new novel about a paralyzed young man’s unexplainable recovery—a stunning exploration of faith, science, mystery, and the meaning of life

Rendered paraplegic after a traumatic event four years ago, Cameron Harris has been living his new existence alongside his sister, Tanya, in their battered Biloxi, Mississippi neighborhood where only half the houses made it through Katrina. One stiflingly hot August afternoon, as Cameron sits waiting for Tanya during their daily run to the Biz-E-Bee convenience store, he suddenly and inexplicably rises up and out of his wheelchair.
In the aftermath of this “miracle,” Cameron finds himself a celebrity at the center of a contentious debate about what’s taken place. And when scientists, journalists, and a Vatican investigator start digging, Cameron’s deepest secrets—the key to his injury, to his identity, and, in some eyes, to the nature of his recovery—become increasingly endangered. Was Cameron’s recovery a genuine miracle, or a medical breakthrough? And, finding himself transformed into a symbol, how can he hope to retain his humanity?
Brilliantly written as closely observed journalistic reportage and filtered through a wide lens that encompasses the vibrant characters affected by Cameron’s story, Anatomy of a Miracle will be read, championed, and celebrated as a powerful story of our time, and the work of a true literary master.

Advance Galley Reviews

This book did not live up to its description in my mind. Was expecting more, but all I found were characters I couldn't connect with and a story thay could be confusing with its timeline.

This book, "Anatomy of a Miracle" was an interesting read. Although at times I had difficulty following and sorting through all the details, Cameron's miracle was engaging. I think a bit of an additional edit to scale back on some of the more random details would make this book even stronger. Thanks for the opportunity for an advance read. I

ANATOMY OF A MIRACLE attempts to present itself as a long form or investigative report obfuscating the reader as to whether or not this is fiction or non-fiction. What it is is dense. The writing is very detailed and hard for me, as a reader, to want to keep wading through after getting to one dead end after another. The author, Jonathan Miles, would needlessly go back generations recounting the histories of unimportant characters which have no impact on the investigation of the miracle. I could see this as being useful for the author when creating a character to fully develop an idea of where he or she came from in order to develop their point of view, but it does not help the reader. The point of view changes from third person to first with different characters. But the end, the point of the book was not the investigation of a miracle, but the story of a man, wounded in combat, who was living with secrets, conflicts and complexities, as do we all. If Miles had focused the book in this manner, it would have been a much better read for me.

This is one of those books that I think I would be totally invested in... just not right now. The premise is so intriguing, and the story that I read was well written. It just couldn’t keep my attention for some reason. I hope to pick it up and try it again, because it’s a story I definitely want to read.

I thought the overall miracle was amazing, however would have liked to see this book written in chronology as to how the events happened after Cameron experienced his miracle. The back and forth was often difficult to follow and left the characters undeveloped in different ways. It would have also been nice to see some sort of conclusion. Maybe a revisit to Cameron after all the dust settles. I really wanted to like this book, but felt it was sadly all over the place.

This is the 3rd book from a February offering of Penguin’s First to Read program that presents fiction through a very specific art-lens. ( The other 2 were THE ITALIAN TEACHER and EXHIBIT ALEXANDRA.) Meaning, either the format, the hook or the entire underpinning of the plot is woven through with very specific references to either “Art”, art critics, or an artistic slant on the form of the novel. In ANATOMY OF A MIRACLE, the entire fictional story is presented as a long-style newsmagazine article or some type of in-depth reporting. The writing is meant to make the reader believe everything is true. Funny stuff in a time when reality is such contested space in American media. Other than this unusual presentation, the tale itself was never as strong as its beginning suggested. The notion of miracles in our era is ripe for fiction. This story traded its opportunities for side stories that travelled in other directions. The book was rather flat for me.

This book had a great plot, and ultimate story. But It was hard to follow. The story jumped from past to present in confusing ways. Also, there was back story on characters that did not matter. They were minor roles in the story but had very involved back story that pulled you away from the real story. If I would of read this on my own (not for first to read) I would of never finished it.

Is it the voice? The characters? The general plot? Whatever it is, this book is not right for me. I don’t care about the characters, cannot muster the least bit of enthusiasm to continue. There is nothing wrong with ANATOMY OF A MIRACLE. Just as there is nothing in it that appeals to me. Some other readers may find it worth the effort, but I have abandoned the novel after struggling through the first 100 pages.

Anatomy of a Miracle is a very interesting book. I didn’t find it to be a fast read because there is much to think about throughout the book. For example, what constitutes a miracle, who brings about a miracle, why was Cameron chosen for a “miracle,” and what should he do with the rest of his life. As I said before, it’s not a fast read, it’s not a fun, light read, but it’s definitely a worthwhile read. Thank you to First To Read for the advance copy.

"Anatomy of a Miracle" is billed as a *true story, fiction masquerading as journalism, but it never feels like modern long-form journalism because the character of the journalist is missing. We experience things as they happen, not as he finds out about them, and the point of view keeps changing and is way too intimate in many places to be reasonable. So I'm not among those who ever was confused about whether this was fiction. But it was pretty darn good fiction. For the the first half of the novel, I thought that it was a natural successor to Carl Sagan's "Contact": an amazing thing happens and the world goes a little nuts over it. There are religious crazies, tourists, doubters and debaters, and a reality show. And the medical doctor and a Vatican investigator trying to figure out what the heck actually happened. No militarization aspect to this one, but there are common themes, and they're interesting in their updated, social media form. And then a little over halfway through, the story be comes more, well, personal for the main characters. It somehow becomes smaller and bigger at the same time. People start behaving more carefully and more rationally -- there's a genuine human current underlying the story and it's suddenly more exposed. The very subject of the book pivots. At that point, the ending becomes clear, but the journey there is warm and meaningful. I enjoyed it immensely, but part of me wanted to see a little more of the earlier strains more fully explored. All in all it's really written and I'm thankful to have read it. I got a copy to review from First to Read.

Wow, this novel was incredible. I love, love, loved the formatting and the depth of each and every description. Jonathan Miles is a master of detail. With the novel taking on the format of a non-fiction book, the story was told from a variety of perspectives and it helped the reader keep up with the plot and see the story from many different sides. The story is a powerful one and one that needs to be told and discussed.

Halfway through the book, the show Miracle Man is described as an attempt to create a reality TV show like the podcast Serial, where part of the pleasure is pursuing answers in 'real time' without knowing what you might find. I came to understand Anatomy of a Miracle as attempting to do something similar albeit in novel form. It's an ambitious idea. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that it worked. Initially, I was quite pulled into the book. I liked the 'investigative journalism' style and tone. I especially enjoyed all the characters' richly developed back stories, which helped explain their understanding of the 'miracle.' But somewhere in the middle I began to lose interest. I figured out a major plot point long before it was revealed. And then there were still 100+ pages to read, most of which I skimmed. I didn't really care to know what happened to Cameron in Afghanistan or whether or not he had experienced a miracle. And I was annoyed when Janice's eccentric, raconteur father appeared at the end to help us "make sense" of what had happened. In aiming to make the novel like an investigative report, something about the plotting and pacing was off. I think it tried not to be plot-driven, but inevitably it was. Unlike Serial, where the journalists can wrestle with uncertainty and continue to question whether or not Adnan is guilty, the novelist knows the answer the whole time. And I felt the careful plotting as I read. And I lost interest in the questions and what the answers might be.

This is an amazing read. It’s written documentary style and so realistic you almost think it’s true. The process of investigating the titular miracle is well written and keeps moving. Highly recommend.

The "miracle" is so close to the start of this book that I really didn't know how the author was going to fill the next 300+ pages, but it turns, out, to be more about investigating the miracle than the miracle itself. An interesting in-depth look at what happened to Cameron. I don't want to give any spoilers, but this book was really hard to put down as it delved into all the aspects surrounding this man's miracle recovery from paralysis. I would recommend it to anyone who really likes those "Dateline" and behind the scenes type shows.

I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book like this. Was it fiction? It says “novel” in the title. Is it non-fiction? The author thanks Cameron Harris and others in the story in the acknowledgments for their cooperation. Anatomy of a Miracle has so many things to talk about for a book club. A vet who’s a paraplegic suddenly regains use of his legs. Is it a miracle or does it have a medical explanation or is it a hoax? Can a miracle be bestowed on a gay individual? This book is quirky but yet full of some very serious issues. Loved it!!

Although the intriguing premise is what drew me to read this book, it ended up being about much more than a paralyzed man suddenly regaining the ability to walk, for better and for worse. Miles' decision to structure the tale as nonfiction is a curious one that allows for a unique feel, but makes for a less than ideal flow especially early on and includes a large amount of superfluous detail that I resorted to skimming. The story didn't fully grab me until after the halfway point when it delves more deeply into Cameron's past and personality, and the ending left me with much to ponder. There are some interesting ideas within these pages, yet they don't all come together to create a wholly satisfying read.

It starts out slow but it definitely vividly describe from the beginning till the end. Not sure if it will be for everyone but it was a interesting read.

Reading books set in the South are such a mystery to me. They often feel as if they are written about another country set in a different century. This totally felt like that to me. The story of a medical miracle was compelling enough, interesting in how people wanted to judge who deserves a miracle. The last third of the book flips the story on its head, again not because of what happens but how it is judged. I had a lot of trouble with that. My reaction (from Tacoma, WA mentioned in the book) was "Who cares?" Eventually I was able to get around my reaction to those that did care and find a grace in the ending of the book. The act of writing this as a longform reporting piece was interesting. It creates a slight barrier between the story and the reader. A presentation of fact instead of emotion. Ultimately the presumption of authenticity adds to the power of what happens.

I’m not sure what I thought this book was about but it was not what I expected. I tried to finish but it was just not for me.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed reading about the military setting that influences all parts of this book. For me, it was a story of the hazards and benefits one is exposed to when fortune shines your way. It is also a book about the changes in and fickleness of our society. It seemed so real and plausible that I had to go back more than once to remind myself that this was not a non-fiction book. I found it well written and filled with many pearls of philosophic wisdom. Loved it!

This book on the surface is about a medical "miracle" but it is also a war story and ultimately, I felt, a love story. It is written as if it is non-fiction, which was interesting. It started slow for me but as I kept reading the story got deeper and better. It was both light reading and heavy reading, I don't think I've read anything quite like it. When I started I wasn't sure I was going to like it, but ultimately I did. I think the story could mean different things to different people. I enjoyed it.


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